Due to the surge, many Indians faced obstacles due to the unavailability of visa interview slots, causing disruptions to their travel arrangements.

Last year, Schengen countries received the third-highest number of visa applications from India, totaling 9.7 lakh, reflecting a 44 percent increase from the 6.7 lakh received in 2022. India witnessed the second-highest surge in visa applications among the top five countries, trailing only behind China, with Morocco and Turkey also experiencing notable increases, as per the European Commission’s report. Nonetheless, the surge resulted in many Indians encountering obstacles due to the scarcity of visa interview slots, leading to disruptions in their travel plans.

Anil Kalsi, Vice-President of the Travel Agents Federation of India, noted to the Times of India that securing appointments with most Schengen countries has become increasingly difficult. For those aiming to travel to Europe this summer, the earliest available appointment dates for Germany and Italy are in July, posing considerable hurdles for travelers. Despite regulations stipulating applications to the consulate of the primary European destination, individuals are compelled to select any country offering an available visa appointment slot.

According to travel experts in India, the true demand for Schengen visas likely surpasses official figures. However, due to the scarcity of visa interview slots, many Indians aspiring to travel were unable to even initiate their Schengen visa applications.

Russia and China have witnessed contrasting dynamics. China, which recently reopened its borders for international travel, experienced a substantial surge in demand, skyrocketing from 22nd place in 2022 to the top spot in 2023. It reported the most significant increase, an impressive 1,104 percent, signaling a tenfold rise in applications compared to the previous year.

Russia, conversely, dropped from second place in 2022 to fifth place in 2023, largely attributed to the conflict in Ukraine and the subsequent sanctions. Schengen visa applications from Russians declined by 25 percent during this two-year period.

As reported by the Times of India, multiple travel agents have lodged complaints with Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) on several occasions, yet they haven’t received any responses.

Regarding the complaints, the VFS Global spokesperson informed TOI, “Visa decision timelines are entirely at the discretion of the respective embassies/consulates… We urge travelers to plan travel early to avoid last-minute surprises. Most countries accept visa applications up to 90 days (3 months) before the date of travel.” They added, “According to the revised Schengen Visa Code, effective Feb 2, 2020, You’re allowed to apply for a Schengen visa up to 6 months before your travel date.

TOI reported that until recently, the European Union policy permitted the issuance of short-term visas to frequent visitors, necessitating repeated applications, a policy that has remained unchanged.

The Schengen visa zone comprises 25 EU member states and four non-EU countries: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. The EU member states are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.

Stay connected with VisaBud for visa news updates!